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Record High Temps and Youth Sports

Record High Temps and Youth Sports

Record high temperatures and humidity can have serious, lasting impacts on your health, especially for young athletes. Heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion and heat cramps are always a concern, particularly in the South, but the CDC reports that heat-related deaths climbed 56% between 2018-2021 and continue to rise. Prevention is important but knowing how to quickly recognize the signs and symptoms of a heat stroke can prevent long-term damage or death.

Heat stroke is the most severe heat illness and is the leading cause of death for high school athletes according to a study published in the Journal of Athletic Training. Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature is higher than 103°F and is unable to cool down by sweating. The body’s internal temperature can rise rapidly, typically a result of prolonged exposure to or strenuous exercise in high temperatures.

Symptoms of heat stroke can include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid breathing and heart rate
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Dry, hot skin or profuse sweating
  • Seizures
  • High body temperature

These symptoms require immediate emergency treatment. If delayed or untreated, the outcome can mean damage to the heart, brain, muscles, kidneys, and even death. Ice water baths are the fastest and most efficient way to reduce core body temperatures and should be used immediately while seeking medical attention. If an ice bath isn’t an option, move indoors or in the shade and remove any excess clothing. A cool shower, ice packs, garden hose or damp towels placed on the neck, under the armpits and groin will help cool the body down until help arrives.

Young kids, teens and high school athletes should use caution and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated on and off the field. Certain health conditions and medications can increase the risk of heat stroke. Beta blockers, diuretics, antidepressants, and stimulants used for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can affect how the body responds to heat and how it stays hydrated. Heart and lung disease can also increase the risk of heat stroke, so consult a pediatrician or primary care physician to discuss the risks.

High school sports programs and athletic administrators are making strides to prevent heat-related illnesses and protecting young athletes by moving required practices indoors or by modifying practice schedules to earlier in the day when temperatures are coolest, as well as increasing the number of water breaks during practice. Heat stroke is preventable, so remember to drink plenty of fluids and limit the time spent in the heat until you are acclimated to it. Wear loose fitting clothes and sunscreen to protect against sunburns, which also affects the body’s ability to regulate heat.

Matthew Bumgardner​​​​​

Matthew Bumgardner, MD
Baton Rouge General Physicians - Family & Sports Medicine
(225) 831-4030